With a history dating back to the 7th century, the former capital of Poland has a lot to offer. Luckily, Kraków’s gorgeous Old Town is also one of Europe’s most walkable tourist destinations and the best way to understand the place is on foot. Here is an overview of some of the key tours for knowledge-hungry visitors.
As one of the key cities of medieval and Renaissance Europe, there is so much to see and do in Kraków. When I first visited, I had a great time with my trusty Lonely Planet. It wasn’t until I returned, however, and started taking tours that I realised guide books only give an overview. Tour guides are friendly, fun, and their knowledge is usually much deeper. It really is a world of difference.
In fact, tours booked through a service like Get Your Guide can make your holiday a great deal easier. You can book everything through the app, without needing to print anything out, and entry fees are included in the price. You’ll get clear instructions on where to meet and what to expect, so all you’re left with is to enjoy yourself. The prices are honestly fantastic value for money as well. Highly recommended.
We’ve included an overview of the key tours on offer, but the selection is always changing. Take a look at Get Your Guide for what’s currently available.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Guided Tour
It’s difficult to explain the impact of visiting the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. It is a profound and perplexing experience that alters one’s outlook, and highly recommended. You can read our account of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau here.
There are a variety of tours available. Most will include transport to the site from a prearranged location in the centre of Kraków. Some tours will pick you up at your hotel and even provide lunch, so there’s plenty of variety to suit your needs. Transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau takes just over an hour. The price of the tour will include entry.
Convenience aside, the real benefit of a tour comes from the guides themselves. They speak excellent English and are very knowledgeable about the camp. Their experience gives an insight that you are unlikely to get on your own.
There’s a lot to see, so expect the tour to last for a full day, around seven hours. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour
Another unique day-trip from Kraków is to the fantastic underground world of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Much of the city, including the 14th-century university was built on the profits from salt. You can see our walkthrough of a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine here.
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978, the mines sprawl for 300km over nine levels, reaching down 327m. It very much feels like a small city underground, with statues and chapels – it’s possible to get married here – and a subterranean lake of dense salt water. The highlight is the vast Chapel of St Kinga, with chandeliers and altarpieces, also crafted from salt.
As with Auschwitz-Birkenau, these tours include full transport from central Kraków and entry to the mines. A tour typically lasts 4 hours, so can be done in a morning or afternoon.
Walking Tour of Kraków Old Town
Kraków’s Old Town is stunning and almost completely pedestrianised, so it is perfect for walking. A tour guide will unlock the secrets of Kraków’s buildings more personally and comprehensively than a guide book to give you real insight into the city’s great history.
Tours typically range from 2-4 hours, depending on how deep you want to go, and will generally start near the Barbican at the top of the Old Town, and then following the historic Royal Route through the Main Market Square and down to Wawel Castle.
Different tours will offer a different experience. All will include St. Mary’s Basilica and the Cloth Hall, but you may also see the 14th-century restaurant Wierzynek, where many world leaders have dined, or the medieval Jagiellonian University. In truth, Kraków is crammed with so much history that no two tours need be the same. You can also hire a private guide for a truly customised experience.
Rynek Underground Museum Guided Tour
During excavations in the early 2000s, a host of medieval material was found beneath Kraków’s Market Square. Instead of moving these to a new location, there was the rather brilliant idea of building a state-of-the-art underground museum around them, tracing the city’s history back to its formation. As you walk around the square, it’s impossible to tell that there’s a building under your feet!
While the museum itself is easy to navigate and offers interactive displays with lots of detail, a guide helps contextualise the items and can answer questions. Also, due to lack of space, the ticket office for Rynek Underground is in a different location to the museum itself. Here, the guide will meet you outside with your entry as part of the tour. A tour will typically last two hours.
Wawel Hill Tour
At the foot of Kraków Old Town, overlooking the river, Wawel Hill is the former seat of Polish kings and queens. This complex of castle, cathedral, and royal apartments is, with Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine, another of Kraków’s absolute must-see attractions.
These are amongst the grandest buildings in Kraków, with lavish interiors, charting Poland’s long and formidable history, which was certainly unknown to me the first time I visited.
Most tours will focus on one particular area of the castle complex, such as the royal apartments, and last around 90 minutes. But you can take a more comprehensive tour, lasting three hours or more. The guides speak perfect English and all entry fees are included in the price.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory Tour
Many know the story of Oskar Schindler through Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List. The industrialist is credited in saving the lives of over 1,000 Jewish workers. This excellent museum, housed in Schindler’s enamel factory, tells the much broader story of the Jewish experience in Kraków before, during, and after the Nazi regime. As with Auschwitz-Birkenau, this museum is a profoundly affecting experience.
Guided tours last around two hours and offer an expert’s knowledge of the history behind the museum. Schindler’s factory is very popular and waiting times can be quite long, so booking a tour is one way of ensuring you get in. You’ll also get to see all the exhibits properly, which can otherwise be a challenge when things get crowded.
Jewish Heritage Tour / Kazimierz
Related to the Schindler tour, and sometimes bundled together as a full experience, are historical tours of Jewish Kraków, particularly around the splendid Kazimierz district. Located just outside the Old Town, Kazimierz was home to a thriving Jewish community from the 13th century until the Nazis forced residents into a ghetto across the river in Podgórze.
Kazimierz remains one of Kraków’s prettiest and most enjoyable districts, and is full of great places to eat. Tours can last from 90 minutes to several hours, and will take in various synagogues and the Old Cemetery. But there are many fine buildings, some great street art, including murals and sculpture, and musuems like the Galicia, an excellent photography gallery.
Kazimierz is also an excellent place to stay in Kraków.
Lying at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is often referred to as Poland’s “winter capital”, but specialises in outdoor and health activities all year round. In addition to mountaineering and snow sports, it’s great for walking, biking, riding, and swimming in the Dunajec river. But there are also thermal pools and spa treatments on offer.
The range of tours to Zakopane is extensive, but all will last the entire day and include transport from the centre of Kraków. Travel time is a little over two hours. Check Get Your Guide to see what’s on offer.
Creepy Kraków Walking Tour
Other tours are available if you’re looking for something a bit different. For example, the Creepy Kraków Tour starts after sunset and reveals the dark underbelly of the city. It’s a great way to see some of Kraków’s main attractions in a very different light, with local legends about ghosts and beasts, and the gristly story of Karol Kot, the “Vampire of Kraków”, who terrorised citizens in the mid-1960s.
You’ll get a great overview of the Old Town, from the Florian Gate down to the dragon’s castle lair on the banks of the Vistula river. The tour lasts two hours and is recommended for over-15s only!
Kraków Food and Drink Tours
Kraków is a fantastic destination for food and there are endless ways to eat and drink your way across the city. Predictably, a whole subculture of food and drink tours have grown up around the many restaurants and bars on offer. From traditional pierogi dumplings and flavoured vokda tasting to the humble pub crawl, there’s something to satisfy every appetite. See our Kraków Food Tours and Kraków Drink Tours pages for a better idea of what’s available. If you’re new to the city, it’s an excellent way to meet new people and to find your way around.
Kraków Tour by Electric Car or Golf Cart
Kraków’s Old Town is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in Europe, as it’s mostly car-free. But several days of walking can quickly get exhausting. Luckily, there are many varieties of tour that give tired feet a rest. These are perfect for people with other mobility issues.
A tour by electric golf cart is also a zippy way to fit more in, as you can cover distances more quickly! These are elongated and can fit seven passengers. Tours last 90 minutes to two hours and will typically cover the key sights in the Old Town and Kazimierz, sometimes crossing over to Schindler’s Factory in Podgórze.
Another advantage is that these tours let you see the sights without getting wet on a rainy day.
Segway Tour of Kraków Old Town
A fun alternative to the golf cart is a tour of Kraków by Segway, those one-person electric vehicles you stand up on. These cover the same Old Town highlights from the Barbican and down to the riverside, with a bit more flexibility and arguably a better view than from an electric car.
The tour itself will last about 90 minutes with an additional 15 minutes at the start to kit you up in a helmet and help get you accustomed to steering the Segway – they are self-balancing and remarkably stable to stand up on! There are also tours available by electric scooter.
Kraków Bike Tour
If you prefer your tour on two wheels, bike tours are available. A tour of the central areas will last about 2-3 hours, but there are more extensive trips. The Communist Bike Tour, for example, lasts four hours and travels out to Nowa Huta and the fantastic, futuristic church Our Lord’s Ark, which is otherwise quite a trek to get to. You’ll meet at the bike shop and get kitted out properly, before using the new cycle path to reach the state-planned “socialist utopia”.
There are also bike tours along the banks of the Vistula to the clifftop Benedictine abbey at Tyniec.
Kraków Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
The more independent traveller can take part in a hop-on hop-off bus tour. While this doesn’t have access to all the Old Town attractions – this part of Kraków is largely pedestrianised, you will have a comfortable and flexible way of seeing other parts of the city. As such, it can be an excellent means of visiting areas you otherwise might not get to.
These sightseeing buses follow a set loop and allow you to break up your explorations over 24, 48, or 72 hours. Buses provide a commmentary on the sights as you pass, and tickets are available with an added boat trip.
Kraków River Cruises
The royal complex on Wawel Hill overlooks the bend of the Vistula. There are floating bars and restaurants on the banks of the river, but a river cruise is also a nice way to get an alternative perspect on the city. Most of these last an hour and take in some impressive buildings of religious significance on the riverside. You can also take a more ambitious trip down to the Benedictine abbey at Tyniec. This cruise lasts four hours, giving you time to explore and even have lunch before returning. See our Kraków River Cruises page to get a clearer idea of what’s available.